Steering committee of community members may flag big changes in redevelopments A review of the much-criticised urban renewal strategy officially began yesterday, with the announcement of a steering committee comprising community members and chaired by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The independent committee formed under the Development Bureau was announced at a ceremony marking the refurbishment of the Wo Cheong Pawn Shop in Wan Chai. It will collect views on suggested roles and financial models for the Urban Renewal Authority and compensation for owners of dwellings involved in urban renewal. That process is seen as signalling possible big changes in redevelopment approaches. The steering committee will oversee the review and propose changes to urban renewal policy. Present policy was promulgated in 2001 under a five-year plan for the authority. In the light of increasing demand for preservation, Mrs Lam said a major review of guidelines was timely. The committee's consultation document says that in the next six months, workshops and Web discussion forums will occur in a bid to identify key issues for review. Public discussion on more in-depth issues and solutions to urban renewal problems will occur in February next year and new a policy will be developed after a community consensus is reached in early 2010. Mrs Lam said pressure groups that had fought against redevelopment projects would be key stakeholders in public talks, adding that overseas experience would also be studied. Apart from independent architects, planners and surveyors, the 10-member steering committee includes the director of the Society for Community Organisation, Ho Hei-wah, Kwan Chuk-fai, general manager of NWS Holdings, a New World Development unit, City University economics Professor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung and solicitor Ada Wong Ying-kay. 'We have no predetermined agenda,' Mrs Lam said. 'The composition of the steering committee just reflects our open attitude.' Mr Ho said a new strategy would benefit the grass-roots community, whose social networks were often destroyed by redevelopment projects. 'The soul of the community will be lost if the neighbourhoods cannot be retained,' he said. Mr Kwan said it would be a great challenge for the city to reach consensus on new guidelines for redevelopment. 'Money should not be the only consideration,' he said. 'A healthy community should also be seen as social capital.' Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said the authority was ready to spend HK$1.5 billion on revitalising 30 tenement buildings with Cantonese verandahs in the heartland of old Wan Chai.